By Sung Jung (John) Kim
On October 9, 2018, Sylvia Aguilera, the former executive director of the Center for Civic Collaboration, and a 2018 World Fellow, along with Enrique Betancourt, the director of the Violence and Crime Prevention Initiative for Chemonics International, and a 2013 World Fellow, gave a presentation on “Mexico: The Political Challenges of the Presidential Transition.”
Aguilera began by describing Mexico’s political history: While Mexico holds elections every six years and is one of the few countries in Latin America not governed by a dictator in the 1970s – 1980s, it resembles “perfect dictatorship” because a single party has controlled the government for 70 years. From 1929 to 2000, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) controlled the government. Only after the 2000 presidential election, when Vicente Fox Quesada, the candidate for the National Action Party (PAN), won the election, did a new party lead the country. Since then, Mexico has been governed by both the PRI and the PAN.
But on July 2018, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate representing a new party of the left, won by a landslide, earning 53 percent of the vote, more than double his closest rival. “The main messages of Andrés Manuel and his campaign was to end the corruption and violence in Mexico, the most important issues that we need to tackle in our country,” Aguilera noted.
She then substantiated the violence in Mexico, explaining that “at least seven women are killed every day on gender-based violence. More than 234,000 people have been killed in the last twelve years – the majority of them are poor, young men…and [Mexico has] had 37,000 people disappear in the last twelve years since the war of drugs began in 2006.” She also pointed out that Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist: “In Mexico, they don’t take journalists to jail. They kill them.” According to the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, a source analyzing the degree of freedom for journalists, Mexico ranked 147 of 180 countries. By comparison, Norway ranked one and North Korea ranked 180.
Betancourt then pointed out that President Felipe Calderón entered office in 2006 when the homicide rating in Mexico was the lowest in country’s history: 8 homicides for every hundred thousand. He raised a question: “what made Calderón decide to start a war against drugs.” Mentioning that violence skyrocketed after 2006, he insinuated that the war on drugs generated the violence in the country. In 2010, the homicide rating in the country was 17 homicides for every hundred thousand. For young men, the homicide rate was 46. For young men living in Chihuahua, the homicide rate was 300 for every hundred thousand. Betancourt concluded that violence not only concentrates in some areas but within specific geographies, it concentrates within populations. He ended by saying that the question of violence among Mexico’s young population is one that the new president-elect must answer.
Currently, the local institutions are weak, corrupt, and unwilling to combat violence, Aguilera noted. And for Mexico, a big challenge is to install better police structures and to remove the army from the streets. However, Aguilera believes that so far, the president-elect has not been clear about his intentions.
Mexicans are now left wondering whether the President-elect López Obrador and his new administration can reduce violence and end corruption in the next six years.
Sung Jung (John) Kim is a first year in Pauli Murray College. You can contact him at email@example.com.